Monday, February 4, 2013
R28m project: houses still stand empty
Four years after First National Bank spent R28-million on a housing project as part of Cape Town's N2 Gateway project, more than 43 houses in Langa remain empty.
The bank has blamed government bureaucracy for the houses remaining vacant, after it had to wait for the city council's approval for the housing units to be sold.
The houses were meant for families whose joint income range between R3500 and R15000 a month, who would not ordinarily qualify for the government's housing subsidy scheme and were not creditworthy to get bonds.
But Abahlali baseMjondolo activist Cindy Ketane responded angrily when told that the houses would not be occupied in the near future.
Ketane said: "There aren't enough houses here [in Joe Slovo] and people won't mind getting those houses because they're standing empty."
The bank had initially planned to build 300 housing units at the N2 Gateway even as critics claimed houses there would never be affordable for families from the Joe Slovo informal settlement.
Ward councillor Mayenzeke Sopaqa said he was fearful that shack dwellers, desperate for housing, would invade the homes, as had happened in Delft.
"They [FNB] promised me that before December 2012 people would've moved [into] those houses but nothing has happened. I haven't heard from them again," said Sopaqa.
FNB home loans spokesman Marius Marais acknowledged the houses had been a hard sell and that the bank would not recover its R28-million investment.
"It is unfortunate that the houses have been vacant for such a long time, but the required certificates from [the city] council took longer to finalise than initially anticipated," said Marais.
The bank also has to spend money to maintain and secure the 43 units to prevent them from being invaded by Langa's homeless.
Disputes over housing allocation at the government-subsidised portion of the N2 Gateway are still raging in the township. Cape Town has more than 350,000 people on its housing waiting list.
Initially some of the houses had been priced just under R600,000 but Marais would not say how much these would currently sell for.
"We are committed, however, to handing over units of good quality to future residents of this development. FNB will commence marketing of the units for occupation as soon as possible," said Marais.
And while potential buyers had signed offers to purchase, human settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela's spokesman Bruce Oom said many failed to qualify for finance because they did not meet the bank's affordability criteria.
Oom said the reason "gap housing" often failed was that many people who were supposed to benefit were not creditworthy.